Welcome back to the final part of the “Reflections on Germany” trilogy, as I have spontaneously decided to call it.
The last two posts talked about all the great things Germany has to offer such as bathtubs and internet, but since I do not want to compromise my journalistic integrity, I must strive for objectivity (man, that sounded posh, didn’t it?). Therefore, today I would like to share a few of the things about Germany that drive me absolutely bonkers.
The number one complaint that I tend to hear from Chinese people who travel in Europe is that the food is so heavy and calorific. I never quite understood what they were on about; until I returned to Germany this Christmas, having spent the past 14 months in China. Following 2 weeks of creamy pasta, cheesy breads, meaty Döner Kebabs, bacon-infused potatoes and so on and so forth, I finally could relate to what my Chinese comrades had been on about. European cuisine is really heavy! After two weeks of attempting to stuff my arteries up as much as possible, I was craving my regular Hefan, a lunch box consisting of 4 different portions of veggies, a few of them with meat and lots and lots of steamed rice. Of course, the fact that I was only home for two weeks and didn’t know when next I shall return did nothing to improve my discipline. Quite the opposite. It’s a terribly dangerous symptom, the “who knows when I will get another chance to eat this” paranoia. Luckily, it only lasts for the duration of the stay, which in this case probably saved me from a heart attack.
2. The Inflexibility
As a major stickler for plans and adherence to them, I never thought I would say this, but I really missed Chinese flexibility. In Germany, a no is a no; come thunder, come rain, come the big lady of the nation, Angie herself. In China however, people are rather flexible. A no never truly means no and if there is nothing to be done via official channels then a bit of underhanded bribery or connections can often do the trick. This also makes Chinese people very effective problem solvers; when they need something or want to achieve a certain outcome, they will think of very creative measures to bend the rules and turn that no into a yes. The thought that there is always a way is very uplifting and liberating, whereas in Germany a no is like running face first into the Great Wall; you shall not pass!
3. The Rules
Slightly related to the inflexibility issue are the rules. Germans love rules. They make rules for making rules, and no doubt about it. Closely linked to German rules is of course the infamous German bureaucracy, of which we have been getting regular kicks in the kidneys since we have begun the process of trying to get married (in China nonetheless). Read more about that fun adventure here.
The thing with German rules is this; we are programmed to actually listen to them. Put on your seat belt, or you will be fined. Yes, sir! Ironically, China probably has far more rules than Germany; just a trip on the metro will confirm this as you listen to about 10 different announcements about letting others exit the vehicle before getting on, no pushing, priority seating and so on and so forth. The difference is that no one ever pays attention to them. I frequently envy the Chinese ability to not perceive rules as anything of interest and simply sidestep them, while I stand at the crossing of ridiculous regulation and ludicrous law watching their taillights disappear in the distance.
4. The Quiet
Those of you, who have carefully followed my previous post on what I love about Germany might recognize this item. So if that is one of the good things about home, how come it also gets a place on the naughty list? Well, as I discovered upon my return there is such a thing as too much quiet.
While I did enjoy being able to sleep in and all the other luxuries of a noise-free environment, I am now so used to being constantly surrounded by one sound or another (such as the beeping from my neighbours broken door which has been going off every 30 seconds for over three months now; and yes, I informed building management of the issue two days after it started), that utter quiet makes me physically uncomfortable. Such was the case, when we had guests and sat down for dinner. While I did realise the TV was too noisy, and hence switched it off, we progressed to dine in complete silence. No radio talking along in the background, no dancing ayis with their techno-raving ghetto blasters on the square outside, not even any major conversation took place during this meal that very soon started to feel like it would take forever. For a split second I considered whether suddenly starting to scream might help, or just singing some of my favourite tunes as a type of Ersatz radio. But I had to admit that even by my standards that sounded a little bit nuts. Luckily, I was freed from the silent torture after dinner, and not a minute too early – I did almost belt out the chorus for Santa Clause is comin’ to town.
And so it comes to an end, my reflection of all the things I love and could do without in Germany. I am hoping to get back on track with more wedding-related talk soon; as you can imagine my stay in the Vaterland triggered quite a few developments in that area.
Bye for now!